Letters From Laurie

Climbing Mount Rainier

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Dear Friends,

Terry and I are departing in seven days for Seattle, Washington. While there I will attempt to summit Mount Rainier. The journey to the summit is expected to be strenuous, difficult and require a variety of skills. I send you this letter to ask for prayers, prayers for safety and success. While I worship the Almighty in this adventure I pray He will give me rest. My success is only possible with His strength.

To give a brief back drop to this adventure, I signed up with the mountaineering company, “Alpine Ascents” to climb Mount Rainier. The mountain stands a magnificent 14,411 feet and is the fifth tallest mountain in the lower 48 states.

After signing up with the company in August 2016 I began to train in earnest. It is said that the best way to train to do anything is simply by doing the activity. Since I live in the Midwest to train by climbing a mountain is not a viable option.  I needed to adjust my training to include exercises closest to climbing itself.

First off, to climb a mountain takes strength. Muscular strength is needed for nearly every climbing task, including controlling and balancing heavy loads, hoisting your pack and gear up the mount, preparing and seating up camp. I had never worked out with free weights before. Fortunately a trainer at the gym I was going to was willing to give me the special attention needed to teach, support and encourage me as I learned.

Mountain climbing also requires cardiovascular endurance. Repetitive activity over long periods of time that involve the use of legs, heart and lungs is what builds the needed endurance. I started going to a spin class.  During these classes I wear a belt around my chest that monitors my heart rate, calories burned and overall effort in real time. These numbers are displayed on a screen during the class, they show up on an app and they are e-mailed to me. I practice paying attention to what my body is doing. I practice pushing myself when I didn’t want to.  I practice feeling uncomfortable, out of breath and with my heart beating fast.

In addition, to reach the summit involves slow and steady steps on steep slopes in snow and at high altitudes. While hiking on the local hills I practice synchronize breathing with leg movements. This requires patience. The monotony of the pace can undermine my morale. I learn to think about each step in front of me as I practice doing each step well. It only takes one miss step to fall.

I learn to rely on the voice in my head, to tell myself I am doing a great job. It is a hard concept to not rely on other people to prop me up. Resilience is about being able to get back up on my own feet.

While climbing, due to the stress, strain and high altitude I am told I will have zero appetite. If there is a food I don’t like here in the Midwest it is guaranteed I won’t like it up on the mountain. During tedious work outs I force myself to sip water. While hiking up a steep hill I munch on a protein bar. I think about what food I will want with me on the mountain.

In addition I do yoga and stretches for flexibility. I watch how much I sleep and I how much I rest. I am careful about what I eat. And, I am nervous. It was becoming impossible for to put all my energy into climbing the mountain. I have a drive to reach the top but I had to break down the process of meeting the goal into tiny, bite-sized pieces and then take pleasure in completing each part. I needed the joy in the process of training. I started hiking with a friend and afterwards stopping for a fun snack or meal. On my way to the fitness center I listen to a book on tape. From time to time I eat a peppermint patty or I get a new piece of clothing. I connect with others who are training with a goal in mind.

Part of the challenge is that I won’t know if my preparation has paid off until I am climbing the mountain. I sometimes worry about all the things that could go wrong. And more important, the things I am not doing that will be obvious oversights later. But I do know that I am working incredibly hard and I am growing in each step of the preparation. And now that I am learning to do this to climb a mountain I can do it for other parts of my life.

I am astonished by God and how He has brought me to this point. I am amazed by God, the One who created Mount Rainier. I am awed at how God has weaved my life and brought this all together at this point in my life. I am trusting God in that His glory will be displayed. Whether I make it to the top of Mount Rainier or not truly that is the greatest story of all.

All God’s blessings to you.

Until next letter,

Laurie

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